Cancer survivor urges women to get tested despite smear test scandal

Cancer survivor urges women to get tested despite smear test scandal
Rachel Fleming, who has urged women to get tested despite the smear test scandal.

A CORK woman whose life was saved by a smear test hopes that the current scandal surrounding CervicalCheck will not deter other women from taking the test.

The HSE and CervicalCheck have offered "deepest apologies to women for any worry caused by the evolving situation around the cervical screening programme and its recent audit process".

Rachel Fleming lives in Crosshaven with partner David Condon and daughter Zoe, said watching the controversy unfold and get worse has been upsetting.

“I am so lucky I am not involved but it is awful,” she said. “It is getting worse all the time.” 

Rachel was only 25 when she went for her first test, in 2015.

“It was my first smear so obviously I was not expecting to get a cancer diagnosis but I’m so lucky I went for it because I would have been in a far worse situation if I had left it for a couple of years.” 

Her illness was noticed immediately and treatment swiftly followed.

“I was very lucky,” she said. “I had the smear in June and was called back in July to go to the colposcopy clinic.

“I wasn’t really worried about that. I thought it was just a follow up thing and then they took a biopsy at that which I think is pretty standard.

“A few weeks after that I was called in and got the diagnosis in August. After I was diagnosed they had to do other tests and scans to check in case it had further progressed but I was diagnosed at stage 1b.” 

Despite the early diagnosis, the treatment was not without consequences. After initial surgery, cancer was found in on of her lymph nodes, meaning radiotherapy was needed.

“The side effects are tough,” Rachel said. “It builds up in your system, at the start it is not too bad but by the end it is and you have side effects for life.

“I won’t be able to have more children myself.” 

She and her family will look at their options regarding children in the future but meanwhile she is determined to focus on the positive.

I’m lucky to be alive, it is a small price to pay,” she said. “I had a very positive experience, it did save my life basically. If I hadn’t gone I could be in an awful situation.” 

Despite the current scandal, Rachel would encourage everyone woman called to take the test.

“It is so important to go,” she said. “It is absolutely heartbreaking to hear about the women who are in an awful position today but at the same time you still need to go.

“People find smears uncomfortable but for the few minutes that it takes, if it potentially saves your life, it is so worth it.

“People are going to be scared but they do save lives.”

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